During my stay in Hawaii, the eastern Pacific was impacted by 4 tropical depressions heading directly for the island chain. The winds aloft forecast models for the Hawaii/California passage did not look favorable for the next three weeks.
"May" was parked at the vulnerable Hilo International Airport as Hurricane Hector approached the eastern shore of the Big Island of Hawaii. Everyone was scrambling to protect their property and many tourists cut short their vacation and flew back to the mainland.
I was really worried that my plane would be clobbered by hurricanes Hector and Lane approaching Hilo. No hangers were available on the Big Island, so I decided to relocate "May" to another island. Ed Neffinger put the word out about my dire situation on the Vans Airforce community web site. After chasing a few leads, I was able to secure a hanger at Kahului Airport (PHOG) for three weeks at no charge. The following Kahului pilots helped me find a hanger: Scott (local pilot), Eric, (owner of Maui Plane Rides), and Brad (an around-the-world enthusiast who offered me his hanger while his plane was being serviced in Oahu). Eric even let me crash on his sofa before my flights to/from California. I was grateful for all of the help I received in Hawaii from these wonderful pilots.
Now that my plane was safe in a hanger, I decided to fly home commercially, rest (by this time in my trip, I was both mentally and physically exhausted) , and prepare for the final leg of the trip.
Returning to Hawaii After A Three Week Break
On August 28, I flew commercially back to Maui on Hawaiian Airlines. I picked a window seat to carefully observe the weather between California to Hawaii. In a few days, I would attempt to fly in the opposite direction in my tiny experimental RV airplane.
Before re-positioning my aircraft back to Hilo, I added an additional 22 gallon bladder fuel tank and plumbing for extra range. The plane could now fly 2750 nm non-stop, sufficient to fly from Hawaii to California with ample reserves. I heard of a recent ferry flight that went down 13 nm short of the islands due to a fuel shortage. They almost made it.
To refresh my instrument skills, I filed IFR for the flight back to Hilo. On final approach to Hilo International, ATC was landing traffic in opposite directions. I faced a Boeing 737 on short final, which felt like an "airplane" version of chicken. The "Do Not Delay" instructions to clear the runway were heeded immediately as I quickly exited the active runway. Who was I to argue? "May" weighs 1% of a loaded 737.
The damage from the hurricanes was still very visible all around Hilo. Hurricane Hector dumped nearly 52 inches (132 cm) of rain and caused major flooding. Creeks overflowed and debris littered the harbor and roads. It was the right decision to relocate the plane to Maui!
RV-9A ready to fly non-stop to California.
The old Hilo airport tower (to the right of the red circle) houses Aircraft Services Hawaii (ASH). ASH enthusiastically provided ground handling, taxi-service, and even helped me to mail home 50 lbs of gear/parts not needed for my next flight. Open hangers to the right of ASH were damaged from previous hurricanes and are now condemned.
"Blue Hawaiian" helicopters offers a new volcano tour over the Big Island. The joyride in the helicopter was welcome distraction from my worries about the upcoming flight to California.
Banyan Drive, known as the "Hilo Walk of Fame", is lined with trees planted by celebrities and adventurers, including pilot Amelia Earhart.
Historic photos of aviation in Hawaii.
Sunday afternoon entertainment in Hilo.
Lava destroyed homes in the Vacationland, Hawaii area. I heard from local sources that none of these homes were insured and FEMA provided no post disaster assistance. Many people are still living out of their cars, months after their homes were destroyed.
Dramatic Hilo coastline.
Crossing the windy strait between the Big Island and Maui. The turbulence I encountered approaching Kahului airport (PHOG) was insane.
A summary of the 2018 Hawaii hurricane season